Season Recap: Wester, Winter pace ND to ACC title game
Christina Kochanski | Friday, May 16, 2014
In their first ACC season, the Irish finished second in the conference tournament and earned six conference player of the week awards.
The Irish (38-10, 16-5 ACC) kicked off the season with a 19-7 record on an extended, 26-game road swing before returning to Melissa Cook Stadium. In the home opener March 26, the Irish took down Eastern Michigan, 12-2.
The team participated in four tournaments early in the season, earning perfect records in the Jacksonville University Tournament and Diamond 9 Citrus Classic.
The season wrapped up with 10 consecutive home games, including a win over ACC rival Maryland to clinch the conference tournament’s No. 2 seed.
Headed into the ACC tournament riding a seven-game win streak, the Irish bested Boston College in the opening round, 3-0. In the semifinals, Notre Dame bounced back from a five-run deficit to pick up a come-from-behind, 9-6 victory over Virginia Tech, but in the championship matchup, No. 1-seeded Florida State defeated the Irish, 3-1.
Reflecting on the transition from the Big East to the ACC, Irish coach Deanna Gumpf said the ACC has more hitting power.
“There’s a lot of good teams on top [of the conference], and the ACC can really hit,” Gumpf said. “That’s a strength of the conference, and I think it’s a great strength to have.”
The Irish ranked among the conference’s best in hitting statistics. Freshman outfielder Karley Wester led the ACC with a .461 batting average. Wester stepped up to the plate 154 times for the Irish, and she said focus was the key to her success.
“I just take a deep breath, try to clear my head, put the ball on the ground and get on base,” Wester said.
With this technique, Wester became Notre Dame’s first-ever ACC Player of the Week in February. Wester was also named ACC Freshman of the Year on May 8.
Four other members of the Irish earned all-ACC recognitions. Senior pitcher Laura Winter and sophomore infielder Micaela Arizmendi were named to the all-ACC first team. Junior outfielder Emilee Koerner and junior catcher Cassidy Whidden made second and third team, respectively.
These all-conference players set new program records during the season. Koerner broke the team record for single-season doubles with 22, and Winter became the program’s all-time leader in wins and strikeouts. She was also selected seventh overall in the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch Draft by the Akron Racers.
Wester said the Irish looked to Winter for leadership and reliability.
“Laura has been a solid force on the mound for us,” Wester said. “Basically every time she’s out there, we have full trust in her, and . . . we know good things are going to happen.”
Winter is one of four seniors on the team. Gumpf said the seniors, including captain and infielder Chloe Saganowich and outfielders Lauren Stuhr and Monica Torres, were crucial to the team’s quick adjustment to the ACC.
“I feel like the group of them, as a four, really complete everything you want in a senior class,” Gumpf said. “I’m really proud of them, and I think that they’re everything to the program.”